THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF TRISTRAM SHANDY, GENT. (1759-1767) by Laurence Sterne
MY REVIEW (CONTINUED FROM HERE) TAKES PLACE IN THE COMMENT STREAM BELOW AS AND WHEN I READ EACH SECTION:-
Chapters XVII – XXIII
Leaving for a moment my breeches and my father’s bed-justice discussion with my mother about them, we now enter probably the most earmarkable, mind-blogging passages of my book, whereby I describe my Uncle Toby and his constructed fortifications and apparatus of history, ramparts, siege engines, towns complete and mocked-up, warfare as contraptions – a veritable CERN Collider in embryo. No quotes from the book will do justice to these passages, so you must read them for yourself, dear reader, and I shall now continue writing some more of them for you to read in the following chapters, no doubt. But…
Life as nothing but a fabrication to give asterisked space for endless pain and the eventual nothingness of death, death the only atomiser or knotted core of a God-particle…or so says our gestalt real-time reviewer, through me.
Chapters XXIV – XL
“Need I be told, dear Yorick, as I was by you, in Le Fever’s funeral sermon, That so soft and gentle a creature, born to love, to mercy, and kindness, as man is, was not shaped for this?—But why did you not add, Yorick,—if not by Nature—that he is so by Necessity?—For what is war? what is it, Yorick, when fought as ours has been, upon principles of liberty, and upon principles of honour—what is it, but the getting together of quiet and harmless people, with their swords in their hands, to keep the ambitious and the turbulent within bounds? And heaven is my witness, brother Shandy, that the pleasure I have taken in these things,—and that infinite delight, in particular, which has attended my sieges in my bowling-green, has arose within me, and I hope in the corporal too, from the consciousness we both had, that in carrying them on, we were answering the great ends of our creation.
I told the Christian reader—I say Christian—hoping he is one—and if he is not, I am sorry for it—and only beg he will consider the matter with himself, and not lay the blame entirely upon this book—
I told him, Sir—for in good truth, when a man is telling a story in the strange way I do mine, he is obliged continually to be going backwards and forwards to keep all tight together in the reader’s fancy—which, for my own part, if I did not take heed to do more than at first, there is so much unfixed and equivocal matter starting up, with so many breaks and gaps in it,—and so little service do the stars afford, which, nevertheless, I hang up in some of the darkest passages, knowing that the world is apt to lose its way, with all the lights the sun itself at noon-day can give it—and now you see, I am lost myself—!”
“Let love therefore be what it will,—my uncle Toby fell into it.
—And possibly, gentle reader, with such a temptation—so wouldst thou: For never did thy eyes behold, or thy concupiscence covet any thing in this world, more concupiscible than widow Wadman.
To conceive this right,—call for pen and ink—here’s paper ready to your hand.—Sit down, Sir, paint her to your own mind—as like your mistress as you can—as unlike your wife as your conscience will let you—’tis all one to me—please but your own fancy in it.
(deliberate blank page)
—Was ever any thing in Nature so sweet!—so exquisite!”
Blending Toby’s Necessity of War (and garden siege-engines!) speech with his own supposed love for a woman as described by I, the Tristram Narrator, we now reach the demonstration of this novel’s audit trails below just before the beginning of BOOK VII that follows it:
Chapters I – XII
There is something about the ohm resistor or the dream-quest to unknown kadath to obviate death, but here the sliding scales of resistance, text against life, is taken on a quest not to kadath, but I take a ship to France, and I am explicitly taking you, the ingratiated reader, too, and with unspoken, unnarrated deference to my Uncle Toby, what is more, I describe to you the fortifications and sieges of Calais when we arrive. Meanwhile Death still chases me with bad health, it seems… “—a knot has slipt!—-“, and that is only to do with French post-chaises always going wrong!
“Pray, captain, quoth I, as I was going down into the cabin, is a man never overtaken by Death in this passage?”
“All which being considered, and that Death moreover might be much nearer me than I imagined—-”
“Was I in a condition to stipulate with Death, as I am this moment with my apothecary, how and where I will take his clyster—I should certainly declare against submitting to it before my friends; and therefore I never seriously think upon the mode and manner of this great catastrophe, which generally takes up and torments my thoughts as much as the catastrophe itself;…”
Chapters XIII – XXV
My French travelogue continues with itemisation of hotels etc in Paris and other matters, one of which involves the propensity of French words to sound like English swearing…
Like life itself, you no longer know where this novel is going. Diversion, digression, distraction… You, as a reader, think that the book that once tried to groom you now owes you a duty of care.
Chapters XXVI – XXXI
Oh, it seems my textual account for this recent French trip seems to be getting muddled up with an earlier trip I made when I was much younger, a grand tour with my father, Uncle Toby et al in Europe. This muddle possibly presages the onset of what you modern readers call Alzheimer’s? I don’t actually say any of this in the text. Doesn’t bode well for the rest of the book. Doesn’t bode well for the rest of my life itself, come to that. Or your life, indeed, dear gullible reader. What possessed you to read this book? To follow me this far? How quickly I seem to have grown old after all those years of resisting time itself. You, too.
“—Now this is the most puzzled skein of all—for in this last chapter, as far at least as it has help’d me through Auxerre, I have been getting forwards in two different journies together, and with the same dash of the pen—for I have got entirely out of Auxerre in this journey which I am writing now, and I am got half way out of Auxerre in that which I shall write hereafter—There is but a certain degree of perfection in every thing; and by pushing at something beyond that, I have brought myself into such a situation, as no traveller ever stood before me; for I am this moment walking across the market-place of Auxerre with my father and my uncle Toby, in our way back to dinner—and I am this moment also entering Lyons with my post-chaise broke into a thousand pieces—”
“To be withheld upon any account, must be a vexation; but to be withheld by a vexation—must certainly be, what philosophy justly calls
NEWS IS THE NEW NOOSE – AN ASS CALLED ‘HONESTY’
Chapters XXXII – XLIII
“…for parrots, jackdaws, &c.—I never exchange a word with them—nor with the apes, &c. for pretty near the same reason; they act by rote, as the others speak by it, and equally make me silent: nay my dog and my cat, though I value them both—(and for my dog he would speak if he could)—yet somehow or other, they neither of them possess the talents for conversation—I can make nothing of a discourse with them, beyond the proposition, the reply, and rejoinder, which terminated my father’s and my mother’s conversations, in his beds of justice—and those utter’d—there’s an end of the dialogue—
—But with an ass, I can commune for ever.”
“Out upon it! in my opinion, should have come in here—but this I leave to be settled by
which I have brought over along with me for that purpose.”
“—And who are you? said he.—Don’t puzzle me; said I.”
“When the first transport was over, and the registers of the brain were beginning to get a little out of the confusion into which this jumble of cross accidents had cast them—it then presently occurr’d to me, that I had left my remarks in the pocket of the chaise—and that in selling my chaise, I had sold my remarks along with it, to the chaise-vamper. I leave this void space that the reader may swear into it any oath that he is most accustomed to For my own part, if ever I swore a whole oath into a vacancy in my life, I think it was into that—-”
“I had now the whole south of France, from the banks of the Rhone to those of the Garonne, to traverse upon my mule at my own leisure—at my own leisure—for I had left Death, the Lord knows—and He only—how far behind me—’I have followed many a man thro’ France, quoth he—but never at this mettlesome rate.’—Still he followed,—and still I fled him—but I fled him cheerfully—still he pursued—but, like one who pursued his prey without hope—as he lagg’d, every step he lost, softened his looks—why should I fly him at this rate?”
“—The whole knot fell down—We had been seven years acquainted.
The youth struck the note upon the tabourin—his pipe followed, and off we bounded—’the duce take that slit!’
The sister of the youth, who had stolen her voice from heaven, sung alternately with her brother—’twas a Gascoigne roundelay.
Viva la Joia!
Fidon la Tristessa!
The nymphs join’d in unison, and their swains an octave below them—
I would have given a crown to have it sew’d up—Nannette would not have given a sous—Viva la joia! was in her lips—Viva la joia! was in her eyes. A transient spark of amity shot across the space betwixt us—She look’d amiable!—Why could I not live, and end my days thus? Just Disposer of our joys and sorrows, cried I, why could not a man sit down in the lap of content here—and dance, and sing, and say his prayers, and go to heaven with this nut-brown maid? Capriciously did she bend her head on one side, and dance up insidious—Then ’tis time to dance off, quoth I; so changing only partners and tunes, I danced it away from Lunel to Montpellier—from thence to Pescnas, Beziers—I danced it along through Narbonne, Carcasson, and Castle Naudairy, till at last I danced myself into Perdrillo’s pavillion, where pulling out a paper of black lines, that I might go on straight forwards, without digression or parenthesis…”
This review will now continue in the comment stream HERE
The links to the eight parts of the Tristram Shandy real-time review:
https://cernzoo.wordpress.com/266-2/ (this one)
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